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The No-Nag Guide to Setting Technology Rules for Kids

Straightforward advice for parents who are tired of yelling

Setting technology rules for kids can be challenging. Try enforcing them sans nagging – now that’s quite the feat.

But here’s the thing: Nagging doesn’t work. If it did, it wouldn’t be called nagging, it would be called telling, and it would only happen once – not a hundred times… each hour… every day.

Below, we bypass all of the unhelpful sound bytes (you’ve got to have an open line of communication with your kids) to give you constructive advice around the wrong vs. right way to approach your children when discussing technology rules. (click to tweet)

Scenario #1:
Your sweet daughter is trying your last nerve as she attempts to ditch homework for a serious Snapchat fest.

Great approach: “Listen, I can tell that you’re having lots of fun on Snapchat, but in five minutes it’ll be time to put the phone down and start on homework as we agreed.”

Not-so-great approach: “You’re always procrastinating – you need to stop fooling around with Snapchat and do your homework right now!”

No-nag solution: Create technology rules and consequences with your kids – before situations occur.

Working with kids to create household rules and consequences empowers their sense of efficacy; it lets them know that their opinions matter.

Making technology-usage agreements ahead of time carries the added benefit of giving children the information they need to make their own decisions.

It doesn’t mean they won’t test boundaries and break the rules. However, nagging and negotiations become moot; all parties involved know what the guidelines and their consequences are (now you’ve just got to follow-through).

Scenario #2:
Your child is basking in the blue light of his tablet, ignoring the fact that he’s sacrificing vital sleep time.

Great approach: “You know, I’ve noticed that you’re still online and it’s past 9 p.m. on a school night. We agreed that if this happened, the tablet would be off-limits for the next 36 hrs.”

Not-so-great approach: “You’re online waaay too late. If you don’t turn off that tablet right now, you’re going to get it!”

No-nag solution: Be very specific with the rules and consequences.

Be as specific as possible when you and your sprouts determine what’s considered unacceptable technology usage and how it will be handled.

This step keeps you from falling into the nag trap. Nagging is just a bunch of words with nothing to back it up. With clear, established consequences, you’ve moved beyond the empty-threat stage; now it’s all about action.

For example, if you want to set up a technology curfew, here are some things to consider:

  • What is the technology curfew time?
  • Does the technology curfew change based on the day of the week?
  • Are there any exceptions for school projects?
  • Can devices still be in the bedroom past curfew, or do they need to be stored in a central location in the house?

Set up a tiered-offense system. First strike: device gets taken away until 8 a.m. the day after next. Second strike: device gets taken away for a week. Third strike: device gets taken away indefinitely.

Scenario #3:
Your daughter is bee-lining it to the home computer before the family swallows their last bites of their dinner.

Great approach: “I know there are important things that you want to do online, and you’re excited to get started. But before you can use the computer, the entire family needs to finish eating first.”

Not-so-great approach: “We’ve barely finished eating and you’re already jumping online! You haven’t even put your dish in the sink! Forget it… no computer tonight!”

No-nag solution: Keep rule changes to a minimum.

Establishing routines is key to axing the negative nagging. Constant change creates the confusion that creates quarrel. It’s too easy to reach for your standby argument when you’re making rule changes on the fly.

Stick to the agreements you made with your child during your time of calm. If your child is not sticking to the arrangement, acknowledge it and allow time for discussion before making a heated decision.

You should still be flexible enough to make changes based on improvement, age advancement or extenuating circumstances. Just don’t drastically change the rules while emotions are running high.

Scenario #4:
Your son is going to new lengths to prove to his game console that he’s not a quitter.

Great approach: “So, I’ve noticed lately that you’ve been playing video games more than normal. I’m wondering if there’s something going on that’s making you want to game more.”

Not-so-great approach: “Look at you – you’re playing video games again, and I’ve already told you a million times that you’re wasting too much time gaming!”

No-nag solution: Change your tone from accusatory to inquisitive.

By asking questions rather than launching accusations, you’re setting the mood of the conversation. You’re showing your child that it’s not about placing blame; it’s about seeing how he’s feeling.

Whether your child’s excuse is legitimate or not, you’re at least starting a nag-free conversation that may give you insight into what’s going on in his life. It doesn’t mean you still won’t drop the hammer, but at least your talking with him and not at him.

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